The Strong Link Between Your Self Image and Business Success.

The vast majority of business people focus on tactics to be successful – strategy, marketing, sales and systems.

Yet after doing this religiously for ten years still often complain that they have not achieved what they had hoped.

Is there something more they needed to work on to succeed at a high level in business?

I think there is:  Their self image.

In my view, doing all the external tactical stuff can only get you so far, if you are being held back by inner feelings of not being deserving of business success, or not feeling that you’re good enough personally to succeed.

Self image affects our performance at work, in subtle yet impactful ways.

We present a little too timidly to win the account. We don’t dare to move the company forward in a new and better direction. We accept a medium level of  revenue growth when we should be aiming for a record uplift. There’s a hundred ways our progress gets impeded by how we feel about ourselves deep down inside.

But enough about the problem, let’s look at some solutions.

From  Dr Nathaniel Branden’s work in the Sixties to Professor Barbara Frederickson’s very recent research (she was born in the Sixties) a myriad of studies have been done on the way how we think about ourselves affects our performance, in work and life.

Here are two ways to increase to increase your self esteem and thereby improve your chances of succeeding in the business world.

Be Your Own Best Fan.

Too often we are the opposite – we are our harshest critic, slamming ourselves in private for perceived errors in public.

Those with high self esteem and high self efficacy are no less demanding of their performance, but also support themselves with their own thinking and self evaluation. They talk themselves up. They choose to interpret events in a positive way. They tell themselves that they can and will achieve.

Doing this takes considerable self discipline, but with consistent effort we can become our most ardent supporters, rather than beating ourselves up inside. If we can pull it off then inevitably our business performance will improve.

Invest In Your Own Competence.

Generally the more competent you are at business skills the more confident you will be when doing them. Logical of course. Yet so many entrepreneurs and executives are happy to coast on their previous studies and accumulated experience rather than dedicating themselves to ever higher levels of learning and competence in their fields.

When you think about it, it’s clear that becoming highly competent has a dual reward. You get the benefits of that specific area of competence but you also feel better about yourself generally. In sports parlance, you feel more like a winner, which in turn leads to more confident actions/results.

Combine positive self talk with ever increasing task competence and you have a powerful synergy of internal and external self esteem boosters. It won’t be long before what you think of yourself changes – and then so will your entire future.

 

3 Great Tips For Staying Calm At Work.

Calmness

It’s becoming harder than ever to stay calm and relaxed in the workplace.

Workloads are getting bigger, deadlines are getting shorter.

It’s no wonder workplace stress is at an all time high.

But part of the reason that so many people are feeling so angst ridden about their work is because they have never learned any methods to alleviate their stress.

As a mentor to executives and CEOs worldwide, I see this scenario all the time and in response have developed several powerful techniques for helping anyone to greatly reduce feelings of overwhelm, sadness and tension at work.

Let’s look at several of the best techniques now.

Switch To The Game Mindset

In my experience, there are two primary mindsets people have about their work. The first is the War Mindset. Somebody with this mindset sees work as a battle and themselves as a soldier. It’s hardly surprising then that they often finish their day completely exhausted and defeated by their perceived skirmishes.

The second mindset is the Game Mindset.  Executives living this paradigm are just as committed to excellence as the first group, but they see themselves as competing in an exciting and entertaining game. They still try really hard, but they are eminently aware that their doing this for fun as much as money.

Time and time again I have seen people who think this way both outperform the warriors and simultaneously be more relaxed and happier.

If you’re feeling a little worn out by work, consider putting a Post It note on your desk with the word ‘Game’ on it, so you can be reminded to keep this mindset all day long.

You’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes.

Use The ‘Next Right Choice’ Technique

This is a highly effective method of stress reduction taught by the brilliant high performance coach, Dr Dennis Deaton.

When you are stressed at work you take two minutes to mentally visualize yourself making the right choice in that situation. So for example if you are clashing with a colleague, just before you are scheduled to have a meeting with that person you mentally see yourself as being calm, rational, and effective in your conversation with them. It’s  a very simple technique that can lead to virtually immediate improvements in performance and reductions in stress.

Try The Breath Release

This is one of my personal favorites. Whenever you are in a high stress situation, take a deep breath and then rapidly exhale, as you simultaneously imagine that particular stress leaving your body.

My personal belief is that mental stresses have corresponding physical components in our bodies. When we physically attempt to expel them there is almost always a dramatic improvement in how we feel.

These are three highly effective techniques for reducing your workplace stress.

Used in combination they can turn even the most stressed worker into someone who is happier, calmer and significantly more effective.

Is This Single Error Stopping Your Success?

People who succeed in business all share several characteristics: they work hard, aim high, study their industry and emulate those who are further up the ladder.

But there’s one thing most people don’t do, which could rocket them to success.

Most executives do not actually do enough practice.

Because they are inordinately busy, most people assume that doing a task is the same as practicing a task. And yet there’s a world of difference.

When we practice our crucial skills we pay much more attention to what we’re doing wrong. We examine our skills, refine them and subsequently get better at them.

Look at anyone who achieves mastery in their field, and you’ll see a focus on practice, not just performance.

For example, the most successful tennis school of the last 30 years is the Spartak Tennis Club, in Moscow. At this school tens of hours a week are spent not paying tennis, but practicing shots in slow motion.

Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis didn’t just attend meetings and hope they went well. The night before an important appointment he would rehearse endlessly, predicting what each participant might say, and coming up with the perfect answers to each of them.

Current chess world champion, 22 year old Magnus Carlsen, doesn’t just play games of chess all day; he practices specific openings, counters and scenarios that hone his game.

At leading New York share trading firm, SMB Capital, traders use software programs to practice typical trading situations hundreds of times, so that they are more likely make the right decision during the real trading day.

Legendary violin maestro Itzhak Perlman was famous for his commitment to practice. As he put it, “Because the discipline of practice was instilled in me at just the right time, it has become an elemental part of my craft.  Nowadays, practicing is second nature to me, a matter of habit, really. In the end, practicing is really just about commitment — to your craft and ultimately to yourself.  If you want to be truly good at what interests you, whether it is music or math or even your backhand, for that matter, you have to be willing to put in the time to be the best you can be.”

What could you practice?

Your presentations. Your phone manner. Staying calm under pressure. Handling staff. Industry specific techniques.

Once you start focusing on the concept of practice, a myriad of opportunities to refine your skills will quickly come to mind.

A Checklist For Super Productivity.

productivity  Are you as productive as you could be?

In today’s uber fast world, the ability to define and do a multitude of tasks quickly is more important than ever. Not just to drive our company forward, but also to make it home for dinner with our family or partner.
Here’s a checklist for super productivity – review it and compare it to your own performance and see how you score.

1. You Always Plan Your Entire Day Before You Begin
According to the world’s bestselling author on time management, Brian Tracy, every minute of planning saves ten minutes of work.

2. You Do The Most Important Tasks First. Even If They’re Difficult
As Mark Twain put it, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

3. You Work With An Attitude Of Urgency
Professor John Kotter’s research has shown that a sense of urgency is the number one personality trait of successful CEO’s. This demanding proactivity is vital to cut through the inertia and complexity of most commercial enterprises.

4. You Set Tight Time Frames For All Tasks
When we have less time to do something we usually manage to do it quicker. Therefore we should always set limited amounts of time to get jobs done. Parkinson’s Law is important here: ‘Work expands to fill the time allotted for it.’

5. You Take A Break At Least Every 90 Minutes
Tony Schwartz’s work at The Energy Project conclusively proves that people perform much better when they have frequent short breaks. He has found resting every hour and a half is optimum.

6. You Read Email Only In Organized Blocks of Time
The most effective executives do not respond to email as it comes in. That will quickly break concentration and greatly increase the chances that your attention will be captured by the new and urgent, at the expense of the important.

7. You Review Your Performance Daily
In what ways did you perform well? How could you have worked better? As the U.S Air Force has shown, performance gets better when each and every mission is reviewed.

So how did you score?

Each of us is more than capable of implementing all seven of these productivity methods. None are complex to fulfill, but they demand intense focus and daily self discipline. Keep this Magnificent Seven in mind each day and watch your productivity (and ultimately life achievement) soar.

The Key Difference Between Winners and Losers In Business.

Are winners in business  just more talented? Or luckier than the average person?

Most people believe yes.

But Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University has proof to the contrary. After over a decade of research her team has shown that in the long term, consistent success does not largely hinge on IQ or luck.

It relies on a particular type of mindset. If you develop this mindset ( and it can certainly be developed) your chances of achieving uncommon success are high, regardless of your field of endeavor.

Dweck calls that winning mindset the ‘Growth Mindset’, and the essence of Growth Mindset is as follows.

Growth Mindsetters have a core belief that their talents are not fixed. Therefore they are confident that anything they choose to do can be done better. Basically, they have a deep belief that their potential is virtually limitless, as long as they do two things.

1. Consistently focus on getting better at that particular area.

2. Try hard at it.

Effort, focus and belief are at the core of how a Growth Mindsetter thinks.

As a result, they may start off not being particularly good at something, but by concerted action they quickly get better at it. ‘Excellence through constant improvement’ could be the credo of a Growth Mindset oriented person.

With this attitude, Professor Dweck showed that even people with lower than average IQ’s often succeeded at a higher level than more intelligent people who didn’t dedicate themselves to lifelong improvement.

A startling notion, I’m sure to agree.

After all, if success over time is not about luck or inherent talent, then that squarely puts the pressure on each of us to commit to continual learning and effort to endlessly get better.

Do you have enough of a Growth Mindset ?

If your honest answer is No, it’s time to get to work.

What Business Executives Can Learn From Winter Olympians.

If you were watching the Winter Olympics closely, you’ll have noticed that many of the medal winners are using special mental rituals to maximize their performance.

Many of these same techniques can be used by executives and entrepreneurs to improve their results.

In today’s column I’m going to outline four of the best sports psychology techniques that anyone in the business world can use to lift their level of achievement in the workplace.

1. Get In The Right State Before You Begin Work.

Every Winter Olympic champion takes the time directly before their event to steady themselves, get focused and in the optimum state to perform at their peak.

Yet most business executives rush into work and just start on tasks. Big mistake.

Spend a few minutes getting centered and really present before you begin work and the rest of your day will go a lot smoother. The state you’re in creates the results you get, whether in sport or business.

2. Choose To Enjoy Tough Competition, Not Fear It.

Gold medal snowboarder Torah Bright stands out from all her competitors because she clearly loves what she’s doing. Before every run down the mountain she actually smiles and reminds herself to enjoy the experience. Yet other, less successful snowboarders are a mass of concern and stress.

Remember, you can choose your reaction to the challenges ahead of you. You can get tense or you can choose to love it and have fun. A lot of entrepreneurs could learn a lot from champions like Torah Bright.

3. Focus On Your Own Performance, Not Your Competitors.

Watch the post race TV interviews with the elite Winter Olympians and you’ll notice that they all speak the same way. They speak only of how they performed, they virtually never speak of others who are competing against them. They’ve been taught by their mental coaches that the only thing they can control is their own performance and they have virtually eradicated any concerns about others.

The business world could learn from this. Focusing on your own work rather than others clears your mind and increases your concentration. You have less fear, less negativity and less over thinking. The result? Higher levels of achievement.

4. Have a Pre Game Ritual.

Watch carefully as the cameras pan across competitors prior to their big event. They are often listening to music through headphones, talking positively to themselves, or have their head down visualizing the upcoming race.

This is no accident – almost all top level athletes follow a clearly organized pre game ritual, to make sure they are totally ready to perform. Why shouldn’t we in the business world do the same?

For you it could be reading an inspirational business book, reviewing your quarterly goals or seeing yourself performing outstandingly at your upcoming meetings. It almost doesn’t matter what your pre game ritual is, what matters is that it gets you in the zone for elite business performance.

The world’s best Winter Olympic athletes didn’t get there by chance. And it wasn’t only a result of physical practice either. They all dedicated themselves to winning the mental game of competition as well, and thrived as a result.
Business has so many similarities with high level sport. So let’s take the best of the athlete’s methods and apply them to our work performance.

Five Ways To Peform Better This Year.

 

1. WORK ON YOUR SELF BELIEF DAILY.

The great business mentor Dan Sullivan has long stated that in his 35 years experience Confidence is the single most valuable attribute to succeed in business. But most of us aren’t just born confident, we need to work at it.

One of the best ways to do this is to spend a few minutes daily being your own mind coach – talk yourself up, convince yourself that you have what it takes to achieve great things this year.

After all, as Dr Maxwell Maltz’s research proved over 30 years ago, we usually perform in accordance with our self identity.

2. GET CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT.

After studying successful people for over three decades, high performance expert Brian Tracy concluded that the most important element of achievement is Clarity. Where do you want to be in 12 months? In 6 months? In the next 90 days?

Write it down and read it every day – it will triple your chances of making it a reality. You don’t have to be a genius to achieve big things in business. You usually just have to be very clear about your aims, then work hard and intelligently to reach them.

3. DEVELOP WHITE HOT DESIRE.

Strong desire is common amongst all great business titans. If you are half-hearted about your goals then mediocrity is assured. As top performance coach Steve Hardison put it, “If you’re not totally committed this ship is sinking, it’s just a matter of when.”

The good news is that personal desire can be increased quickly – by thinking incessantly about your goals, reminding yourself constantly of why you want them and remaining cognizant of how good life will be when you achieve them.

4. DEVELOP SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE.

In 1937 Napoleon Hill identified a lack of specialized knowledge as one of the primary reasons people fail to achieve their dreams in business.

What specifically do you need to learn to succeed in your line of work? What areas of knowledge have the top people in your field learned that those at the mid level haven’t?

Think about this carefully, then make it your business to become expert in those areas. Steve Jobs needed to how to manage people (and boards) better before he could achieve lasting corporate greatness. Investment guru Leon Black had to learn the intricacies of high yield bonds from Michael Milken before he could strike out on his own. What specialized knowledge do you need to learn to make this year an outstanding one?

5. DO WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT FIRST.

Having spent almost 30 years studying time management, if I were asked what is the single most critical productivity technique I would say it’s this one: whatever is the highest value activity on your To Do List do it first. Then do the next most important task second, and so on.

You can ignore all the other hundreds of efficiency techniques and still become extremely successful in business, if you master this one.

Yet not one executive or entrepreneur in a hundred does this consistently.

So there you have it, 5 simple tips to making this year a superb one. Why not try them for the next 30 days and see how much better your results become?

In the long run, success in business is no accident, it stems from doing a few key things well, again and again. Starting with the ones above.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

How To Always Have A Neat Desk.

All the efficiency experts say it – a neat, clear desk dramatically improves productivity.

But what’s the best way to achieve it?

I’ve spent over 20 years studying productivity and efficiency in the workplace, and I’ve found the following technique really useful.

Try it yourself and watch that desk get neat and stay neat.

Ask A Better Question.

I call the technique The Golden Question.

All you do is change the traditional question you ask yourself when you’re deciding whether to throw away something on your desk. The usual question people ask themselves when evaluating whether to keep or toss something is “Will I need it again?”

If you always ask that question, and most people do, you will keep many, many items and documents. A messy desk is thus virtually assured.

But if you just change the question you ask to The Golden Question then you will evaluate items on your desk in a completely different way.

The Golden Question is, “Can I get this again if I need it in the future?”

Once you start habitually asking this question you get a totally different result and a far neater desk. The simple reason being that the number one cause of an untidy desk is far too much stuff on it. If we threw 90% of desk items out (and then if we occasionally needed it again then got it from somewhere else) then desk untidiness would dramatically be reduced.

You May Not Be As Disorganized As You Think.  

The breakthrough is the realization that your desk isn’t necessarily messy because you’re chronically disorganized, it’s more likely to be because you save stuff rather than ruthlessly throwing it out. That’s an important distinction to make.

With  this system you totally change your thinking; you assume you will throw almost everything out –  and then later go looking for another copy of it should you need it. (Which as we all know is highly unlikely).

Yes it’s extreme, but for most people an extreme method is what’s called for to eradicate the mountains of papers and paraphernalia that envelope their desktops. Unless you change the habitual question you ask yourself when you’re evaluating what should stay on your desk and what should go, you’ll likely always suffer from desk messiness – and the low productivity that usually stems from it.

Try asking The Golden Question each day for the next week and watch your desk (and your mind) get clear.

6 Ways to Reduce Business Stress.

Any business person aiming high is going to be stressed at times.

But surprisingly few have learnt smart ways to reduce their stress.

Below are 6 highly effective ways to keep your stress under control, no matter what is happening in your business and personal life.

1. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT’S GOING RIGHT.

Usually people are stressed about just one or two areas of their life. If they only took a moment to look at the big picture, they would see that the vast majority of their life is going well. Grab a pen and some paper and write a list of all the stuff that’s going well in your life. (You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how long the list becomes.). Now stick that list next to your computer, so that you see it all day long. Watch how quickly your perspective changes and your mood lifts.

2. GET ULTRA CLEAR ON YOUR TO DO LIST.

Clarity enhances serenity. If you’re stressed by how much you have to do, get precise about exactly what tasks must be done (You’ll often realize it’s less than you thought). Once you’ve created your list put a circle around the truly crucial tasks. Most of the time stressed executives have exaggerated just how much they have to do. Getting it down on paper helps you see that mountain of work may be smaller than you thought.

3. TIDY YOUR ENVIRONMENT.

The renowned personal development guru, Wayne Dwyer, says you can tell the state of a person’s mind by the state of their car. I agree. if you’re feeling overwhelmed one of the most effective strategies is to create order in your immediate environment – car, office, home. As you take charge of your surroundings your feelings of control will increase. And as the esteemed behavioural psychologist Martin Seligman has shown, there’s a strong correlation between feelings of control and well being.

4. TRY THE 3 BREATH RELEASE.

I mentor executives and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Whenever they come to me complaining about stress I get them to do this simple exercise:

Take a deep breath. Then as you exhale imagine all your problems and stress leaving you. Do this just 3 times and I bet your feeling of stressed has dissipated significantly.

5. FOCUS ON HELPING OTHER PEOPLE.

One of the most effective techniques for reducing your stress is to take the focus off yourself. When you start devoting time to helping others around you inevitably spend less time thinking about your own problems. There are several studies from the University of Pennsylvania linking happiness with service to others. It may seem strange to connect the two, but the truth is many people who are stressed in the corporate world are so partly because they are incessantly thinking about their own issues and situation, rather than others. We need to balance the two.

6. TAKE MASSIVE ACTION.

There is a concept in psychology known as Learned Helplessness – failing to respond or act to improve our circumstances. Originally discovered in rats, learned helplessness is also evident in some humans who feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities. They feel that things are so bad there is little that they can do to change things. We have all felt this at some point in our business lives and it is a depressing feeling to say the least.

The cure though is simple. Take action to fix things. By proactively acting to improve our circumstances we regain a feeling of control and possibility. If we continue acting we soon get a change in our situation. Soon our situation improves, which encourages us to act further. A virtuous cycle develops which usually quickly improves our predicament.

The key is to act greatly, taking multiple steps to change things, even if we’re not sure if they’ll work. If we act enough, we will usually see vast improvements in almost any area we focus on.

So next time you’re feeling stressed at work, try one or two of these techniques. You’ll find every one of them is highly effective in both reducing your stress and improving your performance.

Why the Super Bowl is Like the Business World.

Throwing a football around wearing tight pants and eye black may seem the opposite of the world of business, but I think the two share important similarities.

In fact I believe if we don’t develop 3 of the same character traits of the top NFL players we will never reach the top of the corporate world.

The best players and the best business execs each have these personality aspects to an extreme degree:

1. Ultra focus.

You don’t see linemen trying to be quarterbacks, or the team kicker trying his hand at playing wide receiver.

The NFL world understands that you can only be superb if you specialize. The same is true in business. Great entrepreneurs understand that they must focus on an industry or niche – really get to know it and delve down into its intricacies if they ever hope to master it. In the same manner superb corporate executives appreciate that they need to be brilliant at just a small number of skills, the critical few that they are both suited to and are the most valuable to their company.

Whether in football or business, generalists are less likely to reach the top.

2.Devotion to practice.

The Superbowl wasn’t won by the Ravens on February 3. It was won far earlier, during the thousands of hours the players and coaching staff practiced and refined their craft. Business is no different. Skills practice is vital – whether it’s sales skills, marketing expertise, financial acumen or strategy prowess.

Both footballers and business people are made not born; through endless finessing of their key skill sets.

3. Deep passion.

The wild, chest beating machismo of many of the 49ers and Ravens players is certainly not evident in the corporate world, but make no mistake, deep down in every great business person is similar passion- though it will express itself in more sedate ways.

Nobody ever got to the top in business by being nonchalant. No matter how talented, those who are ambivalent about their careers tend to get steam rolled by those that are passionate. The complexities and shifting sands of business life demand total immersion and commitment- anything less leads to mediocre performance.

So as you can see, Superbowl players actually have quite a lot in common with people in business. Which begs the question, how do you score on the three key attributes of both professions – ultra focus, devotion to practice and deep passion? Are you too a world champion?